Sandals Emerald Bay – Emerald Reef golf club is a terrific and fun layout that currently is the home of the Web.Com Tour’s Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay. Having played the course, I wish I was at Sandals this week to see how the pros handle the layout. With the wind — especially on the stretch of holes 11 – 16, it could give them trouble.
On my trip to play Emerald Bay, I was honored to have the opportunity to talk with (and have dinner with) the course’s designer — none other than The Shark himself, Greg Norman.
The front nine at the course is cut through thick jungle, while the back plays out along a peninsula jutting into the sea. It is a fun and playable course, with scenery quite different from anything I have encountered in my golf journeys.
The first is a 533 yard par 5.
The third at Emerald Reef.The third hole at the Greg Norman designed Emerald Reef Golf Club at the Sandals Emerald Bay resort in the Bahamas is a 434 yard par 4, with massive waste areas along the left and right. Large bunkers surround the green.
The fourth at Emerald Reef Golf Club at Sandals Emerald Bay is a 291 yard par 4. It requires a 170 yard carry over a lagoon inlet to a relatively narrow fairway bordered by jungle and a rock wall right and lagoon left. A sand trap wraps around the back, the right and a cut of the right front of the green. I twice nearly drove this green and was only a chip and putt from birdie.
This is a great hole because it rewards shorter, more accurate drivers of the ball with a good chance at birdie. Greg Norman said that he tried to have holes on the course that were playable by everyone, and this is a testament to his philosophy. I love this hole.
The sixth hole at Sandals Emerald Reef Golf Club is a 146 yard par three over a lagoon. The tee boxes are on the left side of the photo.
This is a classic island green, with the added difficulty of trying to figure out the elevation problem.
The seventh hole a Sandals Emerald Reef Golf Club is a 391 yard par 4. Water runs down the left side, and thickets on the right.The front edge of the first bunker is 233 from the tee.
This is one of the great little par fours on the course. It’s nice to be able to hit a decent tee shot and then have a reasonable chance at the green. You just need to be precise.
Greg Norman said that inclusion of the short par fours comes at the behest of Alice Dye (wife of Pete), who urges designers to make holes playable by anyone.
The eighth at Sandals Emerald Reef Golf Club is a 352 yard par 4.
The ninth hole at Sandals Emerald Bay – Emerald Reef is a 532 yard par 5, lined on both sides by sand and jungle. This is a fun grip-it-and-rip it hole. The fairway is wide enough for some forgiveness, and the traps on either side will catch rolling shots.
On the third day I visited the Sandals Emerald Bay Resort, a series of tropical storms rolled in. Dedicated golfer that I am, a storm was not enough to dissuade me. Here’s a photo of the eleventh with a storm rolling in.
The eleventh is a 138 yard par 3. I like par threes that put short irons in nearly every player’s hands.
Greg Norman said that the twelfth at Sandals Emerald Bay – Emerald Reef was the most difficult of the hole on the course to design because of the restrictions created by the houses and the sea. It is a terrific hole.
The twelfth is a 437 yard par 4.
Playing it close to the left is dangerous, but gives a better shot to the green. A tee shot wide right has plenty of landing space, but requires an uphill approach over a wide swath of bunkers.
Either way, the view is spectacular.
The thirteenth at Emerald Bay is a 117 yard par 3. Spectacular views. As I wrote before, I love par threes that let all players use short irons. They are great equalizers.
The green on the fourteenth at Sandals Emerald Bay – Emerald Reef sits precariously at the land’s edge. The hole is a 293 yard par 4 that plays uphill from the tee, then slightly downhill to the green.
The fifteenth at Emerald Reef at Emerald Bay Sandals Resort on Grand Exuma is a 656 yard par five. The fairway is much wider than it looks from the tee box. If you look closely in the photo, you can see a cart next to the bunker on the right to give some perspective.
Emerald Reef’s sixteenth is a 395 yard par 4 along the ocean.
On the par 4 seventeenth, players are faced with a bunker that runs the entire length of the hole, and even surrounds the green like an island.
A lagoon extends the entire right hand side of the eighteenth on Emerald Reef. This par five measures 627.
The stretch of eleven through sixteen is particularly interesting in terms of routing because it works through a figure eight. Eleven starts on the Emerald Bay side of the peninsula. To get to twelve, the path leads to the opposite side. Twelve and thirteen play with the wind coming in from the left (at least on the day I played). Fourteen routes to the tip of the peninsula, with the wind at the back. Fifteen and sixteen then return to the same side of the peninsula as the eleventh, but this time with the wind blowing right to left.
The result is that on any given day, there will be four wind shifts in six holes.